Former CNN boss Jeff Zucker: 'Cable is still powerful'

As Mark Twain once said, "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Cable, too, may not be gasping for its last breath.

“Cable is still powerful,” former CNN president Jeff Zucker told me at the Yahoo Finance Invest conference on Tuesday. “It will be part of the landscape for the next decade … fewer subscribers, but even at 45, 50 million subscribers, it's still a very powerful distribution.”

According to data from Nielsen, broadcast and cable made up less than half of TV viewing in July for the first time ever, with pay-TV falling to a new low of 29.6% of total TV usage.

Even though his former employer is not up for sale, Zucker, who is now CEO of RedBird IMI, a $1 billion investment venture, sees value in the business.

“It’s a great asset … any asset of that stature, anything that came to market, we would look at,” Zucker said in response to whether he would be interested in buying a cable network like CNN.

The future of cable, and the media industry at large, is a hotly debated subject on Wall Street. Solomon Partners global head of media Mark Boidman told Yahoo Finance in May that cable will be obsolete in the next 10 years.

Zucker, on the other hand, is more reserved in his prediction. “Cable will be here for the next decade … beyond that, I don’t think anybody has a clue,” he said.

Former CNN president Jeff Zucker speaks at the Yahoo Finance Invest conference.
Former CNN president Jeff Zucker speaks at the Yahoo Finance Invest conference. (Yahoo Finance) (Yahoo Finance)

But regardless of the future of cable, people will always gravitate towards good news, sports, and entertainment, he maintained. The media industry is undergoing transition, and the process may be turbulent and costly. Many companies have to balance retaining their existing TV audience while investing in streaming, but when it all shakes out, the best content producers will be on top.

“The reality is great content, great information, and great sports will always win out,” Zucker added. “How it's distributed is the question.”

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Seana Smith is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Smith on Twitter @SeanaNSmith. Tips on deals, mergers, activist situations, or anything else? Email

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